It may be eternal summer that we live and breathe in here in sunny Singapore, but hey, even tropical climate has its whims and nuances. From sudden flash flood-causing showers to torrential rainfall during monsoon seasons, and from skin scorching sun to humidity so suffocating that your skin is perpetually damp with perspiration, it is no wonder that complaining about the weather counts as a pastime.
Just as all these extreme weather elements can wreck havoc on your skin, they can be equally unkind to your favourite leather bags, shoes and garments. Humidity is the number one pain to contend with when you want to keep leather free of mildew. Genuine leather looks fantastic and can last a long time because of how it takes on a natural patina with use, often becoming more beautiful as it ages. It is also often pricey, which means you want to take good care of it just as how you would spend effort on protecting and nourishing your skin.
Treat your leather with a protector
Invest in a good quality protective spray or wax to help keep stains and moisture at bay. This is especially important for shoes because they are the most likely to come into contact with dirt and water on the ground. Note that special leathers like suede require specialised products. Use protectors on brand new shoes before wearing, and then for touch-ups as and when needed or instructed, since the protective coat does wear off after a while. Always do a spot test on the least noticeable part of the item before using the protector all over it. Before reapplying protectors, wipe the leather with a soft, dry sponge or chamois cloth to gently get rid of any surface dirt.
Air and dehumidify to get rid of unpleasant odours
When you return home with your leather jacket or bag, do not put them away immediately. Instead, leave them out in a cool, dry spot or under a ceiling fan and let them air for a few hours. Hang leather jackets on padded hangers to help keep their shape. On the other hand, never hang leather bags. Stuff them with newspaper (or butcher’s paper if you are worried about newspaper ink stains) so as to retain their shape and place on a flat surface.
Shoes, especially, need to be aired because the insides may be damp from a whole day of having sweaty feet in them. Couple the moisture with bacteria and you might end up with a lingering, unpleasant odour. Airing helps to reduce this problem. Further wick away moisture by placing pouches of deodorising charcoal in your shoes.
If your leather shoes get wet, make sure they dry naturally and completely
As soon as humanly possible, wipe off any excess water droplets with old newspaper or a soft, dry cloth. Next, stuff old newspaper into the insides of the shoes for at least an hour to soak up dampness. Continue the drying process by inserting bags of silica gel beads into the shoes to absorb any moisture the leather may have retained and to prevent rot in the lining. Shoe trees made of unfinished cedar will also aid the dehumidifying process and keep the shape of the shoes while they dry. Never use a hairdryer or any heat sources on your precious leather products, nor place them in direct sunlight. This can dry up the natural oils in the leather, cause cracks and destroy the leather upper.
Stuff to maintain the shape before storage, and avoid plastic coverings
For shoes or bags you intend to put away in storage, make sure to properly stuff them first so that they will keep their shape. Use newspaper, or butcher’s paper if you want to prevent possible newspaper ink stains. Place the shoes and bags in the cloth dust bags genuine leather products typically come with. For leather clothing, use padded hangers and breathable garment liners. Avoid plastic liners or bags as leather is a material that needs ventilation. Lastly, take your items out of storage every four to six months to check on them.